God Isn’t Done With Us Yet

by | Apr 24, 2023

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37b-38

This last weekend I attended two joyous and intriguing events.

On Saturday, Praise Community Church celebrated their 50th anniversary. The worship service included their founding pastor, Rev. Dr. Prachuab Dechawan, as well as their current pastor, Rev. Dr. Peter Tan- Gatue. Prachuab remembered the beginnings of the church, and their initial vision of a church that worships in their own Thai language, and responds to the needs of the Thai immigrant community. For most of their 50 years, the church has been a cultural as well as religious center for the Thai community. Peter honored the past 50 years of ministry, but also reminded the church of God’s call to leave the past behind in order to follow Christ’s mission today, because “God isn’t done with us yet.” In the service, it was beautifully evident how the church has embraced all of what both pastors said. Long-time members in traditional Thai dress graciously welcomed all, as only Thai people can. Many of them were in the choir, which now includes a young adult in jeans, a couple of Caucasian worship leaders, and a Hispanic leader. Praise’s sister church, GKI-LA, was also there, bringing their prayers, food, and music. Watching this mix of cultures and gifts praise God together, it struck me how they did not forget their past, but clearly they chose to move beyond the past for the sake of the gospel.

GKI-LA is making good progress towards becoming our first Indonesian chartered church in San Gabriel Presbytery. They are blessed to have a dedicated group of younger leaders, and they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary this November. I love this photo from Saturday, including Prachuab and the future session of GKI-LA, showing how the past and future can make for a joyous and colorful present.

On Sunday, I attended a celebration of Vigilant Love, a group of Muslims and Japanese-Americans who joined together when Muslims were being threatened with exclusion, by rumored incarceration or a ban from allowing Muslims to even enter the US. A few Japanese-Americans have spoken out when the government talks about banning people because of their religion, or detaining and separating family members because they are seeking asylum from Central America’s violence. Some Japanese-Americans have not forgotten the past, leading to work so a painful and unjust history is not repeated against others.

Tomorrow we will have a very full Presbytery meeting. We do know that God isn’t done with us yet, and we will celebrate new ministries, new friends, even as we say farewell to beloved current friends. For instance, we will be examining Charlene Jin Lee for ordination, though we will have to release her to serve in Dallas, Texas. We will receive two potential new minister members, Duane Bidwell and Kevin Haah, both of whom have already contributed to the presbytery from their rich experiences in ministry. We will also conclude the very diligent and caring work of the Grace LA Administrative Commission, now that their hoped-for entry of Latin Grace members into Iglesia de la Comunidad has been accomplished.
Sadly, this will be the last San Gabriel Presbytery meeting for Ally Lee, at least for a while. In her touching reflection in last week’s Monday Update, she shared the impact we had on her ministry, and we know the impact she has had on ours. But thank God, we are a connectional church, and I expect we will see Ally again, even if she doesn’t make her way back to San Gabriel.

The will of God is like living water—fresh and flowing, bringing new friends and energy, even as we must allow others to go on to new phases of ministry themselves. Thank God that we all stay connected in the Holy Spirit, and we will always carry each other in our hearts and our life work.

Thanking God for the connections,